The House of Representatives on Tuesday met in an emergency session to consider rules on Sen. Sanders’ (I-Vt.) budget proposal, the Senate-passed infrastructure bill, and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act.
In a vote on rules to advance Sanders’ budget resolution, the House approved the proposal on a thin party-line vote. All 212 Republicans voted against advancing the budget, having spent much of today’s session pleading with Democrats to deal with the Afghanistan crisis first. All 220 Democrats voted to advance the resolution.
The vote followed weeks of a prolonged stalemate between moderates in the House who refused to vote for the budget proposal before passing the infrastructure bill, and progressives who refused to vote for the infrastructure bill before passing the budget proposal. The moderates controlled only nine votes, but this would have been enough to cause Sanders’ budget to be rejected by the lower chamber. Initially, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) referred to the tactics as “amateur hour,” but as the vote got closer she was forced to take their threats more seriously.
The situation intensified even more last week when moderate Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) joined with the nine in secret meetings to advise them on negotiations with Pelosi and the White House.
In an emergency meeting with the leader of the House moderates last night, Pelosi met with Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), the de facto leader of the moderate rebels. The meeting continued into this morning. The two reached an agreement that would guarantee the passage of the infrastructure bill by Sept. 27, a move that cushioned moderate concerns that the bill would not be passed.
This morning, Pelosi expressed optimism that she had the votes, but uncertainty continued as to whether the agreement the two had met would satisfy the other holdouts.
President Joe Biden, who sees the budget resolution as essential to his "build back better" agenda, also exerted his influence on the nine moderates in phone calls. Some Republicans, like Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) criticized the president for using this time to deal with “$5 trillion in new spending and taxes,” instead of using it toward dealing with the Afghanistan crisis.
With this passage, the budget proposal is one step closer to the President’s desk, but will still face challenges when it returns to the Senate from moderates like Manchin, who has expressed concerns about its huge $3.5 trillion price tag. He has told reporters that he “is not making any promises” that he will vote for the bill on its return from the House. With their 51 votes including the Vice President’s, Senate Democrats cannot afford a single defection to pass the legislation. In view of this, the House’s vote today is only one step in the very difficult process that the resolution will need to pass through to become law.